H.M.S. Dreadnought was laid down in Pembroke Dockyard in 1872, launched in 1875 and completed in 1879, her staggering cost of ¨619,739 making her the most expensive warship in the Royal Navy to date. Designed by W.H.White, she was a notable ship for various reasons; she was the first warship to have a longitudinal bulkhead amidships, the first to be fitted with compound engines and the first to have artificial ventilation. She was also the last British battleship to have overall armour plating and thus be termed a true "ironclad".
Displacing 10,886 tons, she measured 320 feet in length, with a 64 foot beam, and her armament consisted of four enormous 38-ton 12.5-in. guns. Capable of 14 knots at full steam, she was a "steady" ship although inclined to pitch in heavy weather. Commissioned in 1879, she was based at Portsmouth until 1884 when she transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet where she stayed for ten years. A partial refit at Chatham preceded two years as coastguard ship at Bantry after which a major refit in 1897-98 gave her a new profile when her funnels were raised as part of a general modernisation. Last employed as the depot ship for Devonport's torpedo boats during manoeuvres, she was placed in the Dockyard Reserve in 1905 and finally sold for breaking in 1908.
Often referred to as "the naval officer's beau-ideal of a battleship", Dreadnought certainly looked the part and somehow managed to sustain her reputation as the best protected ship in the Navy long after her once impenetrable armour had ceased to be so. In every way she was a singularly successful ship and she stands out as the only battleship of her era which was never a target for adverse criticism.